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The Politics of Direct Democracy

The Politics of Direct Democracy: Referendums in Global Perspective

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 214
  • Book Info
    The Politics of Direct Democracy
    Book Description:

    This book aims to provide a comprehensive, up-to-date survey of direct democratic institutions and devices as they have developed both in the thinking of modern political theorists and in actual political practice in the world's major democratic nations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0282-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Tables and Figures
    (pp. 9-10)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 11-12)
  5. Introduction: Understanding Referendums
    (pp. 13-18)

    This book is intended to provide a broadly comparative, empirically based introduction to the institutions of direct democracy as they exist in the world today. As the first chapter of the book establishes, the use of devices such as initiatives, referendums, and other types of direct votes has increased substantially over the past two decades. In Britain, where these institutions were long considered to be largely incompatible with traditional forms of parliamentary government, there have been no fewer than seven important referendums since 1975, including landmark votes on issues such as European Union (EU) membership, Scottish and Welsh devolution, and...

  6. 1 Referendums in Democratic Societies
    (pp. 19-36)

    The condition of democracy in the world today is cause for both optimism and concern. On the one hand, democracy flourishes in more places than ever before. The transition to democracy in the nations of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, parts of Africa, and much of Central and South America brought about what Samuel Huntington (1991) has called a “third wave” of democratization around the globe. Yet not all citizens of the newly democratized nations of the world see their experiment with democratic political institutions as an unqualified success. In many instances, democracy has not delivered better living...

  7. 2 Theoretical, Conceptual, and Procedural Problems
    (pp. 37-50)

    To this point, I have lumped together the various forms of direct democracy found in different countries using the generic label referendums. It should be recognized, however, that this usage takes in various different forms and does not differentiate among the several types of legal framework within which a direct vote on a public issue might take place. Strictly speaking, the term “referendum” applies when a vote is initiated by a governing body such as a legislature and the result is legally binding on the body that initiated it. In many of the cases documented in Table 1.1, however, the...

  8. 3 Referendums on Constitutional Issues
    (pp. 51-76)

    In the next four chapters of this book, I will examine in some detail several specific referendums that will be classified using the categories set out in Table 1.3 of Chapter 1. The cases considered in this chapter indicate the variety of legal frameworks and political circumstances under which a referendum dealing with aconstitutionalquestion might occur. In a few countries, notably Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland, and Australia, amendments to the constitution must be approved by a vote of the people in a referendum. In these countries, referendums occur routinely whenever a constitutional amendment is proposed or a matter arises...

  9. 4 Referendums on Treaties and International Agreements
    (pp. 77-100)

    In this chapter, I consider several cases in which a referendum was held to ratify a treaty or international agreement that had been entered into or contemplated by a government.

    As noted in Chapter 1, this usage of the referendum has become well established in a number of countries, and in several important instances in recent years a major international treaty or agreement has been put to a referendum, either because a particular country’s constitution required such a ratification process or because its government deemed that such a vote was politically expedient. In the case of the 1986 referendum on...

  10. 5 Referendums on Sovereignty, National Self-Determination, and Devolution
    (pp. 101-124)

    Referendums on subjects such as sovereignty, national self-determination, and devolution are relatively rare, in part because jurisdictions that might desire a change in their political status often lack the legal competence to undertake a binding referendum on self-determination. In the case of Quebec the two referendums held on “sovereignty” by the provincial government (1980 and 1995) might well have met legal challenges from the federal government had they been successful. In Puerto Rico, while the commonwealth government in each of the three instances (1967, 1993, 1998) was seeking stronger ties with the United States rather than independence, it nevertheless would...

  11. 6 Referendums on Public Policy Issues
    (pp. 125-164)

    Referendums are more commonly used to resolve large and difficult political or constitutional questions than to deal with routine policy matters. But there are polities, such as Switzerland, in which the institutions of direct democracy are more fully integrated into the ordinary processes of government, allowing various other types of political issues to be decided by referendum. Section D of this chapter provides an overview of Switzerland’s referendum processes and gives a sense of the diversity of issues on which Swiss citizens are regularly called upon to vote three or four times a year. During the 1990s, referendums in Switzerland...

  12. 7 Citizens, Parties, and Voters
    (pp. 165-184)

    Referendums provide opportunities for citizens to participate directly in the political process in ways that elections and other more conventional political processes do not. But they present a different set of choices to the voter than does an election. In a referendum, unlike an election, no political party or candidate names appear on the ballot. Voters often must choose among unfamiliar alternatives that perhaps lack reliable voting cues. Yet at least some of the factors that political scientists are accustomed to considering in studies of elections—ideology, parties, and partisanship; the images of political leaders; the issues underlying the ballot...

  13. 8 The Present and Future of Direct Democracy
    (pp. 185-192)

    The referendum has been associated in one way or another with some of the truly momentous political events of the late twentieth century Mikhail Gorbachev’s all-union referendum of March 1991, although it failed in its objectives, ultimately became an instrumental part of the process of political change in the former USSR. In the end, it led to the independence of Ukraine and other former Soviet republics (Chapter 5, section B), and to the processes of political and economic reform that were set in motion in Russia and the Baltic states. The 1992 referendum in South Africa advanced the process of...

  14. References
    (pp. 193-210)
  15. Index
    (pp. 211-214)